One of the most exciting times in a pregnancy is when you finally feel a “kick” from your little one. Fetal movement makes your pregnancy very real. It’s the first sign of “life” in your belly.
Anxious moms- and dads-to-be may be wondering when to expect their baby’s kicking debut.
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When Does a Baby Start Kicking?
When do you feel fetal movement? The timing can vary from one pregnancy to another, but generally, a baby’s first movements – known as “quickening” – occur between 16 and 25 weeks of pregnancy.
If this is your first pregnancy, you may not feel your baby moving until you’re closer to the 25-week mark. With subsequent pregnancies, you may feel movement as early as 13 weeks.
You’re more likely to feel movement when you’re quietly laying or sitting down.
Here’s a brief timeline of your baby’s possible movements throughout pregnancy:
- 12 Weeks: Your baby should start moving around, but you probably won’t feel this movement as she’s still very tiny.
- 16 Weeks: Some moms will feel butterfly-like flutters at this stage.
- 20 Weeks: At this stage, you should start to feel your baby’s first movements.
- 24 Weeks: Your baby’s moves should be more established. You may also start feeling baby hiccups or slight twitches.
- 28 Weeks: Your baby is more active now. Some of her kicks and jabs may leave you breathless.
- 36 Weeks: Movements start to slow down as your uterus becomes more crowded.
What Does Fetal Movement Feel Like?
What does a baby’s kick feel like? The experience is different for every mom, but most compare the feeling to nervous twitches or butterflies. Some experience a tumbling motion.
If this is your first pregnancy, you may not even realize that it’s your baby causing these internal motions. In the first and second trimesters, movement can be hard to distinguish from hunger pangs and gas.
Fetal movement in the third trimester is more pronounced. You’ll be feeling your baby’s jabs, kicks and elbows with force.
Babies can also respond to touch and sounds outside of the womb. If you snuggle too close in bed, your baby may just kick your partner in the back.
How Often Should a Baby Move?
Early on in the pregnancy, you may only feel your baby move every now and then. As your baby grows – and certainly by the end of the second trimester – the kicks will happen more frequently and with greater intensity.
Studies have found that babies move about 30 times an hour during the third trimester of pregnancy.
Just like us, babies tend to be more active during certain times of the day. When they’re not active, they’re typically sleeping.
Unfortunately for mom, babies tend to be most active between 9pm and 1am – when you’re trying to sleep.
Why are babies such night owls? Their activity is a response to the changes in your blood sugar levels.
What Is the Importance of Fetal Movement Counting and When Should It be Initiated?
Fetal movement can be an indicator of your baby’s health – or of potential problems.
Once your little one’s movements are well-established (usually around the 28-week mark), your doctor may recommend keeping track of all those kicks, punches and jabs.
Fetal movement count is the best way to keep track of movements. Ideally, you want to chart all of your baby’s kicks, so you can keep track of his normal pattern of movement.
When should you start counting?
Pick a time when your baby is most active and you have some quiet time. Babies tend to be most active right after a meal. Sit down in a comfortable chair or lay down on your side.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends counting the amount of time it takes for your baby to make ten movements. You should be able to feel those ten movements within a two-hour period.
If you don’t feel ten movements in two hours, try counting later in the day when your baby may be more active.
If your baby is much less active than normal or you still don’t feel ten movements in a two-hour period, talk to your doctor.
Tracking Your Baby’s Movements
If you’re going to track fetal movements, consider getting a chart or keeping a log book. The goal is to track the time of each movement, and the overall time it took for the baby to perform 10 movements.
Tracking the timing of the baby’s movements will help you pinpoint patterns in your baby’s activities. Most babies will eventually fall into some sort of pattern of alertness and sleeping. Being able to predict when your baby is most active will make it easier to determine if something is wrong.
Still, doctors caution pregnant moms not to worry too much about routine. Babies may be active during the day one day and inactive during the day the next day. They don’t necessarily follow a schedule like we do.
The third trimester is when most babies start to form a routine, but just as quickly as they fall into one, they come out into the world.
If you have a high-risk pregnancy, your doctor may recommend counting and keeping a close eye on fetal movements. But even if you have a perfectly healthy and normal pregnancy, it’s still a good idea to track movement. You never know what tomorrow may bring.
Reasons for Increased Fetal Movement
Is there such a thing as too much fetal movement?
Some moms worry that their babies are too active. If you’re feeling a constant tumbling and rumbling in your tummy, it may not actually be your baby doing summersaults.
Hiccups are a healthy and normal part of your baby’s development – and you will feel those hiccups. When they happen, it can feel like your baby is in constant motion. While disconcerting, it’s important to remember that this action is completely normal.
Here’s the good news: increased fetal movement is not usually a sign that something is wrong. In fact, it’s a sign that your baby is healthy and developing well.
Decreased movement is where you need to be concerned. But even if your baby is a little less active, that doesn’t necessarily mean that something is wrong.
If you’re worried about your baby’s movements, don’t hesitate to call your doctor and have your baby checked. Don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed to ask about movement changes. In most cases, ramped up activity is just your baby hiccupping.
Some babies will hiccup every day, multiple times a day. Hiccups become even more frequent in the final days of pregnancy. It should feel like a pulsating sensation on your lower belly if your baby is in the proper position.
Reasons for Decreased Fetal Movement
If you’re keeping track of your baby’s fetal movements every day, you’re sure to notice when your little one is a little less active.
In most cases, a decrease in fetal movement is completely normal. Even decreased fetal movement at 39/38 weeks/37 weeks is normal.
You may notice that your baby is less active:
The rocking motions of sex and the uterine contractions that follow an orgasm usually put the baby to sleep.
But other babies may be more active after sex.
In either case, it’s completely normal to have changes in your baby’s movements after sexual intercourse.
The Second Trimester
In the second trimester, your baby is still quite small. There’s plenty of room in your uterus to move around. That can make it more difficult to track your baby’s movements.
Don’t be surprised if you feel intense movement followed by hours – or a day – of quiet time.
Fetal position also plays a role in whether you feel movement at this stage in the pregnancy. If your baby is facing inward, for example, you may not feel those movements. You may also sleep right through your baby’s most active period at night.
The Third Trimester
At this stage, your womb is becoming quite cramped. Your baby’s movement is a little more restricted, but you should still feel wriggling and squirming.
In the final month of your pregnancy, it’s critical to note changes in your baby’s activity. Take the time to count fetal movements a few times a day. If there are any sudden decreases in activity, contact your doctor immediately.
If your baby is a little less active than normal, you can usually perk her up with a snack.